October 15

For my third and final new Verve acquisition I present the album Warm Wave by vibraphonist Cal Tjader.

I have to admit to not knowing anything about Mr Tjader. Actually all three of these artists that I’ve recently previewed have been relatively new to me.

That doesn’t mean they’re unknown! As a matter of fact, according to Wikipedia, Cal Tjader started out playing in college, after a stint in the Army, with Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond and Vince Guaraldi. And, he was a sideman with George Shearing which is where the Willie Bobo connection came in.

How a Swedish American from St Louis became an afro-cuban jazz band leader is beyond me but I’m glad it happened!

It turns out that Tjader’s exploration into afro-cuban rhythms coincided with the mambo craze that swept over the US in the late 50s. He then went on to fuse jazz and Asian styles of music, although mostly unsuccessfully.

This album, Warm Wave, was a way point between that Asian experimentation and his return to Latin rhythms on the acclaimed Soul Sauce record.

My copy of Warm Wave is in very good shape cosmetically, but unfortunately had a large pop and skip on the first track. I’ll have to explore further to see what the issue is because it’s not a visible problem.

This is the perfect cocktail party record.

October 14

Next up on my Verve Records recent find parade is an album from Jimmy Smith called Bashin’ The Unpredictable Jimmy Smith.

This is the second of three Verve Records I found at a local thrift store recently. Although not in as good a shape as the Willie Bobo record, it is still is very playable.

I had previously reviewed a Jimmy Smith album on this blog. I have to say I was not all that impressed with Mr Smith. The subject matter of his standards record just sounded hokey and a little to “Take Me Out To The Ball Game-ish”.

I had kind of written Jimmy Smith off! Until recently, when I picked up some Beastie Boys vinyl and heard the Jimmy Smith samples on songs like Root Down.

I figured I needed to give Jimmy another try and this album showed up in the thrift store. As with Bobo, this is Smith’s debut on Verve.

What a difference from his standards album! Here side one is with a big band and side two with his trio. The album touts a “hit version” of Walk On The Wild Side… but it was not the song I had imagined…

He also covers Hammerstein’s Ol’ Man River here with the band.

On the trio side, Jimmy really swings! With a great effort on the Smith penned title track and a killer version of the Johnny Mercer chestnut I’m An Old Cowhand From The Rio Grande.

My scuffy placeholder copy will do just fine until I find a cleaner copy elsewhere.

October 13

Of all of the records that I have collected over the last 10 plus months I have been most impressed with the gems I have found on the Verve record label.

Typically in the jazz genre, some are fantastic, most are very good and all are at least interesting.

If I find a playable looking Verve record in a local thrift store I’m going to buy it.

Here’s my latest:

Spanish Grease from a fellow named Willie Bobo.

How can you go wrong buying an album from Willie Bobo?

Willie was a timbales player from Spanish Harlem and worked with many well-known outfits of the day. He gained recognition playing in Cal Tjader’s Modern Mambo Quartet which had a big hit with an album called Soul Sauce.

Willie went out on his own after that and this is his first of several records on Verve.

The opening song/title track, Spanish Grease is recognizable from many of the interpretations done by those like a Santana over the years.

It’s also got a couple of contemporary pop songs including It’s Not Unusual, which is done on side A with a vocal in on side B as an instrumental!

The final track is an interesting mixture of the R&B standard Shotgun combined with the Herbie Hancock tune Blind Man, Blind Man.

Although not a perfect copy, this record almost sounds right with some scuff and crackle… like some late night food cooking in Spanish Grease!